Liverpool/Portland/Who makes pop?
by Anne Richardson
Nike recently reminded everyone of Portland’s power as a pop machine.
In 2006, Dennis Nyback, PNCA students Mack MacFarland and Damon Eckhoff, and I did The Portland That Was, a TBA Festival project which explored Portland history using films from Dennis’ collection.
The project featured clips of interviews, including one with musician James Hawthorne. During his remarks about Paul Revere and the Raiders, Hawthorne draws a parallel between Portland and Liverpool.
This comparison came as no surprise to me (producer) and Dennis Nyback (interviewer), although it may have startled cameraman Tim Smith. The parallel between the two cities, as engines of pop, is one Oregon Cartoon Institute has been contemplating since its very founding.
Dennis and I aren’t interested in comparing Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Beatles, or in their respective places in music history. We’re interested in the communities which produced these two bands. What kind of cities produce pop? More precisely, what kind of cities produce artists of unusual pop fluency.
The Beatles came to Portland on August 22, 1965, and played the Memorial Coliseum. The British Invasion already happened via radio, but now they were here in person. As it happens, Paul Revere and the Raiders made their network debut the same year, as hosts of ABC’s Where The Action Is, a half hour variety show which debuted on June 27, 1965.
Where The Action Is was on every single weekday afternoon. You could watch Paul Revere and the Raiders faithfully every day when you got home from school just as you could watch Warner Brothers cartoons voiced by Mel Blanc faithfully every day before you left for school. Portland children had wall to wall Portland influenced pop culture coming at them from the small screen. Both success stories came out of local radio: Mel Blanc from KGW and Paul Revere and the Raiders from KISN.
James Hawthorne confined his comparison of Liverpool and Portland to rock music. Oregon Cartoon Institute believes there is a deeper parallel between these two cities, which has to do with the very nature of pop culture.
Matt Groening, far right, plays a greaser in Tim Smith’s SALMON STREET SAGA (1970)
John Lennon fronts The Quarrymen, his Liverpool skiffle band, in the late 1950s
In Paul McCarthy’s recent GQ interview, he mentions his hometown six times. “It’s a Liverpool thing.”, he says. He doesn’t explain what “a Liverpool thing” means except to say “it’s no fairyland”. What he gets across is that there IS a Liverpool thing. He has a regional identity, and he doesn’t expect you, as someone not from Liverpool, to understand it.
As it happens, I may not be the only person who sees a big parallel between Portland and The Pool (the nickname of Paul McCarthy’s hometown). Matt Groening began his thank you speech, upon receiving his Hollywood star in 2012, with “Well, I couldn’t have done it without three other boys from Liverpool”. He was quoting the speech Paul McCarthy gave four days earlier, upon receiving his own Hollywood star.
That happened, but also this:
While our project focused on embedding films from Dennis’ collection within a map of Portland, the University of Liverpool’s The City In Film project focused on embedding home movies made by Liverpool citizens within a map of their city. Both projects were built before Google purchased Youtube and made embedding video in maps a push button operation. Both projects were hand coded.
Here’s The Portland That Was.
This website was made so long ago, Google no longer supports it. But you can see the rough idea, which was cutting edge in September 2006.
Here’s University of Liverpool’s The City In Film.
They’ve kept their site up to date, and continued to add data. They now have 1,700 films in their database.
Sir Matt and Sir Paul both come from cities where artists/social scientists were anxious, in 2006, to get started using new media to explore history by embedding moving images into interactive maps. Maybe impatience is one of the defining characteristics of a pop fluent city.
In 2019, Oregon Cartoon Institute heads into a digital humanities project which will reflect the advances in design capability since 2006. I believe the University of Liverpool is keeping their interactive The City In Film project current. I hope so, since I would love to have an exchange program with them, and compare notes.
Founded in 2007 by Anne Richardson and Dennis Nyback, Oregon Cartoon Institute uses new media, archival film, research, networking, and cross disciplinary discussion to explore Oregon film, animation, and print cartooning history. It has no brick and mortar presence, and always works in partnership with organizations which do.